She stopped me in my tracks. And prompted me to track her down on property to give her a hug.
That’s no small feat for a hotel housekeeper to achieve. As a hospitality consultant at Redpoint who trains hotels on marketing and guest service, I’ve stayed in more than 500 hotels around the world…from the barest of guest houses to the most luxurious of resorts. Some even came with my own personal butler. Many promise to deliver anticipatory service. And yet none of them…not a single one…captured my heart (and my future business) the way the Delta Halifax in Nova Scotia did, despite all of them having the exact same opportunity to do so.
And it’s all thanks to Sandra the housekeeper. Here’s how it went down.
A decades-old neck injury makes it most comfortable for me to sleep with a pillow that has laughingly been referred to as “a few sheets of loose leaf paper stuffed inside a pillowcase.” I no longer travel with it (preserving its precious life span), so when I sleep at hotels, I remove the big fluffy pillow from the pillowcase and replace it with a folded-once towel from the bathroom. I repeat this procedure every night of my stay because the housekeeper always restores the bed to its default state and the towel to the bathroom.
Imagine that habit solidifying into autopilot after around 500 times of having to repeat it. And then imagine walking into the room after two nights of a four-night stay and seeing this on the bed:
That note (highlighted in the photo so you couldn’t miss it) was handwritten on the back of a water glass coaster and resting on top of a precision crafted bath-towel-pillow. Thickness? Perfect. Edges? Neatly tucked. Here’s what the note said:
After giggling with pleasure for a few minutes – who doesn’t love a good surprise? – I wrote Sandra a heartfelt thank-you note and left it on the bathroom sink for her to find the next morning. And then the next day, I returned to my room to find this:
That did it. I left my room immediately – coat on and all – and went to find Sandra. We met, we hugged, we laughed. And then I went to find Sandra’s boss to ask how on earth they train their staff to be so observant and thoughtful. His answer was identical to the one every other hotelier delivers when asked about their approach to guest service: “we look to hire those kinds of people, and then as part of our training program, we encourage them to use their judgment to make a guest’s stay more personal and memorable.” If I only had a nickel for every time a hotelier said those exact words to me.
The difference here is…the Delta Halifax has actually achieved it. Sandra – while the hero of this story – was not alone. The front desk person checking me in recognized that I was from the U.S. and whipped out a city map unasked, just to orient me with my surroundings. The breakfast server brought me a to-go cup with fresh coffee – also unasked – after a chat revealed that I was running late and didn’t have time for the extra cup I wanted to savor at the table. The maintenance guy stopped what he was doing to help me carry a load of awkward packages to my door. And on, and on, and on.
Hoteliers, take note: the Delta Halifax could do with a renovation. The rooms are dated, corridors need a refresh, and I’m sure the GM and Director of Ops walk through that hotel every day and dream of what they’d do with a nice fat capital expense budget. And to them, I say: It didn’t matter one whit to me. The place was spotless, the shower heat and pressure was just fine, and never in my life have I felt so cared for by a bunch of strangers. You could leave the rooms as-is for the next twenty years and I would stay there every single time I come to Halifax…no matter how many cool hotels spring up or renovate around you. The moral of the story? Truly amazing service wins brand loyalty, despite any other real or perceived shortcomings.
Delta Hotels and Resorts…I sure hope that ALL your properties are as gracious and extraordinary as the Delta Halifax. Because I now plan to stay in a Delta property whenever I can while in Canada, and thanks to Sandra and the whole crew at Halifax, you’ve got some VERY big shoes – and pillowcases – to fill.